Marshall basketball: Conference play brings new hope for Herd
HUNTINGTON - Marshall men's basketball Coach Tom Herrion said the advent of Conference USA play is a good time to wipe the slate clean.
"It's a new season, zero and zero," Herrion said.
The Thundering Herd had a non-conference run it mostly would like to forget, culminating in a 37-point loss Saturday at Ohio. That came after a 28-point loss at Kentucky on Dec. 22 and a two-point home loss to sub-.500 MEAC team Delaware State on Jan. 2. Then guard Kelvin Amayo - who became academically eligible just before the Kentucky game - surprised the team Monday night by saying he planned to transfer.
With Tulsa coming to the Cam Henderson Center tonight at 7, the Herd (7-8) wants to push out the bad memories and focus on the conference schedule.
"We've got a new lease on life, and that's how we're going to approach things," he said. "We're going to prepare. We recognize we have to play a lot better."
Marshall has found it especially tough to snap its current three-game slump. In those three contests, the Herd has shot just 33.3 percent from the floor and 21.5 percent from 3-point range.
It's dished out 25 assists and committed 58 turnovers, including 26 in the loss to Ohio. As those losses mounted, Herrion could tell the Herd wasn't attacking opponents the way it used to.
"I think it's a lack of confidence right now," he said. "We've got guys playing tentative, not aggressive. We've never had success playing that way. I want the kids to go back to playing aggressive and not worrying about making mistakes."
Senior forward Dennis Tinnon agreed it was time for he and his teammates to shake themselves out of their doldrums. He said the upperclassmen have let the team know that time is running out if they want to turn the season around. Matching the 9-7 C-USA records of each of the last two seasons would give the Herd a 16-15 record at the end of this regular season.
The clocks are ticking on the collegiate careers of seniors like Tinnon, forward Robert Goff and center Nigel Spikes, and Tinnon said they want to close those careers on a strong note.
"We let them know it's time to hit the switch," Tinnon said. "It's time for a change. It's 2013. Everybody wants to change. We've been losing in 2012. Let's come with a different approach. Let's win games and get where we want to be."
The Golden Hurricane (9-6, 1-0 C-USA) comes into the Henderson Center with some momentum. Despite scoring only 14 second-half points, Tulsa pulled out a 48-47 win over Southern Methodist in its conference opener, thanks to a 3-pointer by Pat Swilling, Jr., with 3.8 seconds left.
Tulsa will play shorthanded against the Herd.
The Hurricane has 11 scholarship players and has yet to play a game with all 11 healthy.
It's led to a small lineup. Only one of first-year Coach Danny Manning's five probable starters is taller than 6-foot-4. But 6-foot-4 freshman guard James Woodard (13.7 points per game), 6-foot-4 senior Scottie Haralson (9.8 ppg), and 6-foot-2 junior guard Swilling (10.9 ppg) have given Tulsa a boost.
"Swilling and Haralson change the game with their ability to make shots," Herrion said. "They're playing really small.
"With Haralson at the '4,' that really makes them hard to guard.
"They can really spread and ball-screen."
With the C-USA schedule becoming essential to Marshall's future fortunes, Tinnon said the Herd must reverse its current fortunes as soon as possible.
"There's going to be a point where it has to stop," he said. "Nobody wants to be losers. I know this group doesn't want to be losers. This group wants to win a lot of games. I think we're going to change it around."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.